Are my Magic: the Gathering Cards Worth Getting Graded?

{"id":"64aee591-b89b-4db8-bc1b-3cee7f5177ba","slug":"daniel-clarke","name":"Daniel Clarke","email":"","bio":"<p>Product Guardian @ Ambr Grading<\/p>","avatar":"https:\/\/\/public\/wink\/images\/iTHyw8PfX7gRoxhSjt9kHb4C3J5FBU5Z3WwCOwjc.jpg","created_at":"2021-10-07T20:14:46.000000Z","updated_at":"2022-08-23T18:35:37.000000Z","meta":{"meta_description":null,"opengraph_title":null,"opengraph_description":null,"opengraph_image":null,"opengraph_image_width":null,"opengraph_image_height":null,"twitter_title":null,"twitter_description":null,"twitter_image":null,"theme":"dark"}} <p>Product Guardian @ Ambr Grading</p>

Daniel Clarke

10 minute read

Looking to get your Magic: The Gathering Cards graded, but don’t know where to start? We got you covered!

Looking to get your Magic: the Gathering cards graded, but don’t know where to start? We got you covered!

Before we begin, please keep in mind that I work for Ambr Grading but I have used over a dozen different grading services over the years. I am not sponsored by or affiliated with any company, site, or service outside of Ambr Grading and the opinions written are my own. 

 So you’re looking to get your Magic: the Gathering cards graded and wondering where to start. Grading cards is not something all card collectors do but it is extremely popular among some Magic: the Gathering Card collectors- especially for higher-end cards. There are many benefits to having your cards graded which include permanent protection and having the card(s) authenticated. Some questions you might have asked are:

  • Which of my Magic: the Gathering cards are worth money?
  • Which Magic: the Gathering cards of mine will be worth money in the future?
  • Are my Magic: the Gathering cards in good enough condition to get graded?
  • Is it worth it to get my Magic: the Gathering cards graded?

The first thing you need to consider is why you want to get a card graded. Are you trying to make money now, invest, keep something for nostalgia or begin a collection? If it's nostalgia or a collection that you care about most, the monetary value may not be a consideration. If maximizing your return tops your list of reasons for grading your cards, it’s important to understand which cards you have so you can accurately evaluate them. 

How do I identify what I have?

If you have absolutely no experience with Magic: the Gathering cards or you have been out of the loop for a while, your initial step might be to find someone that knows what they’re looking at. Some local shops may be willing to look at your collection if it is small enough. Another more likely option is a friend with an eidetic memory for card values and can quickly search through your collection for stand-out cards - there are more people like this than you might realize. If neither of these is an option, there is a process you can use to help minimize the time it takes to find potential value in your collection:

If you do know which cards have value, you can skip this section.

As a note: There is no “silver bullet” for finding valuable cards in your collection. There are examples from any rarity and border type that are worth a lot and nothing at all. The MOST expensive cards will be from Alpha or Beta (or any of the original sets) but there are cards printed as late as 2019 in the thousands of dollars. 

  1. Using sites like can be excellent resources for showing the different versions of cards that exist. You'll need to know more than just a card's name to determine its value. Type in a card's name on and use the visual search to find the same card version you have (some cards have been reprinted dozens of times). Look for the version with the same art but keep in mind that even the slightest difference can make a massive difference in value and there may be several cards with the same art and sometimes the same border. For example, having a Beta version of a card can make a card worth 100x times more than a revised version. There are innumerable differences and reprints of many cards and it can be a task to determine exactly which one you have. A site like scryfall can give you the set name which will help you determine the card's value in the next step. Alternatively, you can skip to the next step as has many of the same visualization capabilities but is not as easily searched. Another tip for obtaining a very generic identification, especially if a card is not in your native language is to use Google Lens. It's a free app and all you need to do is take a picture of the card and have Lens analyze it. You won't likely get an exact match but you will probably get a card name and maybe even a set which is enough to keep searching.  
  2. Once you have located the correct version, head over to or eBay to find out what your card is selling for. Again, ensure you are selecting the correct version of the card. The collector number and the set symbol are a good way to narrow down the selection- if they are present. An example of an eBay search might be something like this “revised shivan dragon” or “foil 7th ed birds of paradise.” If you enjoy the “hunt” of looking for good cards then you can always search for cards by their highest value and then search through your collection to see if you have any that match. This is a tedious process and there are so many cards worth money that it's not likely to help a great deal but it can be fun. If you're looking through a lot of older cards, you may want to familiarize yourself with the differences between Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Summer Magic, and the follow-on sets that look very similar. The smallest difference can make a card extremely valuable. For example Alpha has more rounded corners than beta, Unlimited has more saturated colors, a different justification (than that of revised), and a double border.
  3. Condition matters. A card that is in rough shape can be worth only 20% or less than that of a mint copy. TCGplayer has done a good job of outlining what these conditions look like. This will give you a better understanding of the quality of the card you have although there are some major differences between a Near Mint card that is for sale online and a Near Mint card that has been graded (centering is often not a factor for selling cards online but it can greatly affect a card's grade). 

It must be mentioned that your card is likely worth closer to the lowest-priced copy you find rather than the highest of the same set and comparable condition. I often see new sellers listing their cards for what they think their cards are worth and never selling them. As a buyer, why would you pay $100 for a card when you can pick one up in the same condition for $10? Using eBays “completed listings” option is a good way to learn what cards were actually purchased for. 

Misprints in the world of TCGs can make your card more valuable. There are tons of small variations from card to card but when a card is truly a misprint, it can greatly increase the value of the card- not all grading companies acknowledge misprints and some of them charge more to process oddities. 

Valuing your collection can be time-consuming, especially at first. After a few cards, you’ll get the hang of it, and it will go faster. Card collecting is extremely nuanced- it takes years to grow a baseline knowledge of what is out there and what is valuable. Don’t be discouraged if you are just starting out, it's all part of the hobby!

Be ready to pay for shipping:

Most people new to grading are unprepared for the common shipping practices among grading services. Grading is unique in that most other goods and services don't require you to send something in and then later have it sent back. Shipping your cards can get pricey, especially if they are high value and you adequately insure them. As a personal rule, I never ship with UPS (this is different from USPS aka the postal service). UPS is often 8-10x more expensive than USPS and their customer service is awful. Going with USPS flat-rate boxes or FedEx is generally faster and less expensive. Keep in mind that USPS has a $5000 cap on insurance and charges around $1 per $100 of insurance. FedEx has a $100,000 insurance maximum and charges less per $100 than USPS- at the time of this writing. These rates will change with time so go to each respective carrier for accurate information. I do recommend using an online shipping service like Grandshipper. You will get better rates, and better service and you can create shipping labels from home. I recommend doing your own research and finding a shipping service that works for you.

What do I get when I have my Magic: the Gathering Cards Graded?

At the most basic level, you will get your cards reviewed and placed in a plastic case, pending they are authentic. Depending on the company you choose this might be a polycarbonate or acrylic case. Typically acrylic is more clear and looks better but it acts more like glass than polycarbonate. Some companies will offer subgrades (the individual grades that make up the overall grade - Centering, Surface, Corners, and Edges) but most will charge extra for this service. You can also get photos of your cards before and after they are graded so you can share them on social media and use the images in your sale posts if you choose but this service is not common. Ambr Grading is the only grading service meant specifically for TCGs that includes every service with no up-charges and a guarantee of 30-day return times or less. 

Something to keep in mind is return times, values and pricing can vary with each grading company and even within each grading company. Some companies charge based on the value of the card, despite it getting the same treatment as a much less valuable card. Others will be very inexpensive if you plan to ship in hundreds of cards simultaneously. This only works if you are ok with those cards being away and untrackable for long periods. In 2021-2022, it was not unusual for there to be 18-month return times on the lowest tiers of grading. It's important to consider all factors before selecting a service to go with. 

 I want to grade my valuable Magic: the Gathering Cards:

With Magic: the Gathering cards, collectability, and volume of play are what drives the value of cards. Brand-new cards will sometimes have a “hype premium” that inflates their price initially. Generally, this price settles over time. Eventually, when the card goes out of print, the value will begin its slow climb up. If history teaches us anything about the oldest cards in the Magic: the Gathering card collecting hobby it's that their value only goes one direction over a long enough period – up. If you’re holding on to some early MTG cards (1993-1998) you probably want to get them graded now, no matter what their condition is. If you are looking to have some newer cards graded for safekeeping, doing so sooner will almost certainly save you money and the hassle of protecting those cards in other ways. The cost of grading cards has gone up substantially in the last five years and there is no indication that it will go down any time soon. If you have a card that is rare and valuable now, there is a good chance it will be worth more later. Keep in mind that not all grading companies are the same. Some specialize in TCGs like Magic: the Gathering and others are sports card centric. Just because a company is less expensive does not mean you are getting a good deal. Make sure the company has a thorough authentication process and a return time, etc. that is acceptable to you. 

It might be a good idea to check the population reports of the cards you want to get graded. It is a good indicator of the scarcity of your card and how popular it is. 

I want to keep my Magic: the Gathering Cards:

Grading cards for your collection is a great way to protect them and keep them safe while displaying them. Most grading companies use plastic that has some UV and humidity protection. Ambr Grading offers full border customization allowing you to get the aesthetic of your cards to shine. If you play Commander and are looking for a neat way of making your commander stand out, Ambr Grading has a pretty sweet case to do exactly this. 

Key Takeaways:

Keep realistic expectations. Just because you found the same card as the one you have for $100 on eBay does not necessarily mean your card is also worth $100. Some people will overinflate the value of their cards because of sentimental reasons or perhaps they don’t understand how markets work. You need to find the LOWEST price that matches the condition of your card to obtain an accurate value. To make things a little more complicated, graded cards that have a high score will often be worth a lot more than cards with low scores or cards that are not graded but in the “same” condition. A trick to get accurate values for your cards is to search on eBay using the “completed//Sold” option. Alternatively, sorts its cards by condition, and it's easy to get a sense of the value of a card. also has a condition guide for “raw” cards that can help determine your card's condition. You may have a near-mint card but that does not guarantee a high grade with a grading service because more variables are being assessed, like centering, and with a lot more scrutiny.  

I hope this guide answers many of your questions, if you have any more, please feel free to contact me at!